How to walk a dog or puppy on a lead
‘Walking the dog’ is a fun activity that lets you and your pet bond and explore the world together! However, it is common for dogs to pull on a lead when walking, teaching your dog to walk on a lead properly can be a challenging task so it’s important to start training your dog from an early age.
If your dog is straining at the lead, or your puppy refuses to walk without pulling with all their strength, it means that you are only controlling them with physical restraint, rather than with the training that should keep them happily trotting at your side. Not only that but, as they get older, the physical effort involved in controlling your dog could be overwhelming, especially if your canine friend is one of the larger, stronger breeds.
To make life easier for you and your dog, all it takes is a little training and they’ll be overjoyed at the sight of their lead in no time. Follow these tips to make dog and puppy walking a walk in the park!
Training your puppy to wear a collar
If you train a puppy to walk on a lead when they’re young, they’ll grow up being happy on a lead and much easier to walk with right through adulthood. But whether you’re training a puppy to walk on a lead or starting with an adult dog, the best place to being isn’t with a lead at all – but with their smart new collar!
When puppy training your dog needs to be comfortable in their collar, so start with one that's lightweight with nylon-webbing so it won’t feel like it’s weighing them down. Make sure it is fitted correctly, with just enough room for you to get two fingers underneath it. Check their collar daily, whenever it’s time to ‘walk the dog’, and adjust it to make them more comfortable if you need to.
Does your dog try to wriggle out of their collar? They probably won’t even notice they’re wearing it if you put it on and then immediately distract them with treats or a fun game! If they scratch their collar, distract them. When they’re not paying their collar any attention, remove it again. Over the course of a couple of days, slowly increase the length of time that your dog or puppy wears the collar until they stop noticing it – and you’ll be well on the way to a happy, well behaved walking dog or walking puppy!
Attaching the lead
Before walking a dog on a lead, the first step is to attach the lead to their collar. Being on a lead is another sensation your dog or puppy will need to get used to gradually, but when they do, there will be so much more of the world to explore!
Attach a lead to their collar and follow your dog around the garden, making sure the lead is kept slack. That way, they’ll barely notice it’s there, making puppy training a lot easier!
After a couple of minutes, remove the lead and play a game together, before reattaching the lead and walking wherever they wander, all the time keeping the lead loose so they feel no resistance. You’ll have your dog or puppy walking on a lead in no time!
Once you’ve taught your dog to ‘sit’, it’s time to think about how training can help you when walking your dog on a lead. First of all, teach them to walk to heel on the lead and get your dog’s attention by saying their name and showing them a treat – this will be exciting enough to make any training worth the effort and is the first step to teaching your dog to not pull on a lead.
Then lean forward and take a few steps, encouraging your dog to walk forward too. Your dog should be rewarded and praised for any steps forward at this point, as they’re learning something new.
Encourage your dog to take the ‘sit’ position next to you, and then step forward again. Practise walking forwards in many short on-lead training sessions, and when your dog walks alongside you, without putting any pressure on the lead by surging ahead or lagging behind, say “heel” so they associate walking next to you with the request.
If your dog lags behind, be more animated in your actions and use a more excited tone of voice – just like you, your dog can get bored, and something that seems exciting is much easier to focus on!
If your dog pulls ahead whilst walking on a lead, it’s because they want to get somewhere fast. Simply stand still (or even start walking backwards), call them back to your side, and start again. Your training sessions are so exciting, especially to a young dog, that walking might involve a bit of puppy pulling. Puppy training will get easier, though - your dog will quickly understand that pulling on a lead is counterproductive to getting anywhere.
Once your dog has started to pick up the basics, you can try to repeat the dog and puppy walking exercises in ever-busier and more distracting places.
New encounters when dog walking
Once your dog is walking on a lead and to heel in your garden (and they have been fully vaccinated), begin walking with them on the lead in other areas. Walking a dog on a lead isn’t always plain sailing - remember that they will want to investigate new sights, new sounds and new smells, so don’t expect too much too soon. You will have to work harder when faced with competition for your dog’s attention so take some special treats (either a small proportion of his daily food allowance or his favourite toy) and teach them that focusing on you is worth it! Keep training sessions short and positive, always ending on a success, and then have a fun play session together.
Meeting people and other dogs
Ask your vet or local training club about training classes that can teach you how to walk a puppy or adult dog on a lead. They’re one of the best ways to prepare you for walking your dog and for trips into the wider world together.
Walking a puppy or adult dog on a lead, isn’t always straightforward - many dogs get very excited when they see another person or dog walking towards them and start pulling on the lead to great them! It is important to pre-empt this behaviour so that it doesn’t occur. (It’s also where spending so much time puppy training pays off!)
If you see someone approaching, get a treat from your pocket, say your dog’s name to get their attention and then calmly show them the treat, which they should focus on. As they walk past the person, give them lots of praise and then stop and give them the reward. They will soon learn good manners if they are rewarded like this
Once your dog is happily and reliably walking on a loose lead, reduce their rewards and only give them the occasional treat for especially good lead-walking (such as walking calmly past a, exciting distraction like a cat). Do not stop giving rewards altogether – a random reward will keep your dog’s interest and concentration far better than constant rewards or none at all!
If you need further help and advice on walking your dog on a lead, enrol with a local dog training club (see apdt.co.uk, capbt.co.uk, or Purina’s® Dog Directory for details of a club or trainer near you).
Dog or puppy pulling on lead
If your dog is pulling on his lead, or your puppy refuses to walk without dragging you and you are finding it hard to stop them, consider trying a canine head-collar. Never use a choke chain (or ‘check’) collar or prong collar. Training should always be a positive, reward-based experience that encourages bonding between you, not punish them in a way that may inspire fear – this is usually counter-productive in the end!
No matter what point you’re starting from, with a little love, encouragement and patience, you will be able to go on some truly memorable and special journeys when walking the dog. If you’re looking for even more tips when exercising your dog check out our ‘Healthy Exercise Guide’.
If you’d like more information on walking dogs and puppies on a lead or have any other queries, contact our PETCARE EXPERT TEAM.